Having predicted difficult years ahead for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, almost by default I’m going to have to predict good things for Labour. In terms of voting intention polls and electoral victories they should have a good year, what matters is what they choose to do with the opportunity, to use a well worn metaphor from the past year, will they fix the roof while the sun shines?

Since the election Labour have risen from 30% to around about 40% in the polls, the majority of this increase being at the expense of the collapsing Liberal Democrat vote (there is a small amount of churn between Labour and the Conservatives, but no great shift. The overwhelming majority of people who voted Tory in 2010 would vote Tory again tomorrow).

This means that Labour are narrowly ahead in all the polls just seven months after losing the election, and it will probably get even better next year. The cuts will start to come into play with all the consequential stories of this or that bad thing being attributed to them, further sapping government support. Barring an upset in Oldham, 2011 should be a year of electoral victories for Labour. The polls in Wales suggest a very strong Labour performance there, with the party on the edge of an overall majority. Scottish polling is less regular, but they too suggest a good result for Labour. They should also make good progress in the local elections. All of this suggests Labour should enjoy some healthy leads in national voting intention polls and the way the vote was distributed in the UK at the last election, that should translate into an easy Labour majority if repeated at an election….

But, there probably won’t be an election next year. Labour’s strategy can’t afford to be based upon the assumption that the government will fall early, that the economy will still be up the spout come 2015, nor that the spending cuts will automatically bring public services to the point of total breakdown rather than being adapted to over time (of course, things could end up in utter disaster, but in that case Labour will probably win anyway regardless of what they do).

Being ahead in the polls gives a lot of advantages. The party appears on the up, people take you seriously, and it gives the leader a certain authority to act and take the party with him. Labour need to utilise this time to tackle their underlying problems so they are ready for the next election.

At present Ed Miliband’s authority in the party is uncertain because the majority of Labour’s MPs and members voted for a different leader, who was also perceived as the better leader by the public. Miliband’s current ratings in the polls are lacklustre – he already has a negative approval rating, his brother is still seen as a better option and only 27% of the public think he’s up to the job.

The worst case scenario for Labour is that Ed Miliband is their IDS – little bit awkward looking, vocal mannerism that makes it hard to take him seriously, has the right ideas about reforming the party, but fatally underminded by the fact his MPs never actually wanted him in the first place and never felt any loyalty to him.

I’m inclined to withhold judgement on Miliband so far – he hasn’t made an impression with the public, but that also means he hasn’t made a negative impression yet. Think of the rapid negative perceptions Hague built up immediately, or Michael Howard brought with him to the job. There’s still time for people to warm to Miliband – more importantly, after May 2011 he should have some victories under his belt and that will give him the aura of success. People will think more positively of him as a victor, and it should win him some loyalty amongst his MPs.

I wrote earlier in the year about the problems that resulted in Labour’s defeat in May. Gordon Brown himself had atrocious ratings, their economic record was shot and they were seen as old and tired and out of touch. Gordon Brown is a problem Labour don’t need to worry about of course, but solving the other problems is less easy and in some cases contradictory.

Building an economic reputation in opposition is nigh on impossible. We saw in my post on the Conservatives that 47% of people now think the government are handling the economy badly compared to 40% who think they are doing well. However, ask people if they trust Labour or the Conservatives on the economy and the Tories still come out top.

On this front Labour also need to worry about the narrative the coalition government build around them. In 1997 Labour successfully painted the narrative of Conservative years of boom and bust and chronic underfunding of public services. The Conservatives will want to paint their own narrative of the last Labour government, of reckless spending pushing the country to the verge of bankrupcy, and have had some success in doing so: 60% think Labour haven’t faced up to the damage they did to the economy, 47% that if Labour returned to government they’d put the country into even more debt. Labour can argue with that, try to put forward their case for the last goverment’s economic record…but that conflicts with trying to distance themselves from Gordon Brown and the last Labour government.

How Labour respond to the cuts may be the trickiest. There will be pressure upon Miliband to simply oppose all the cuts and reap the rewards of public unhappiness. This may be superfluous anyway, as the only main opposition party, Labour are going to benefit from public unhappiness at cuts whatever, but it would bring with it its own risks – it can be portrayed as Labour not having their own plan, running away from hard decisions and, worst of all, raises the question of what happens if the cuts work… if the economy comes back on track, and public services don’t collapse?

On one hand, Labour are in opposition and by the time of the next general election the deficit will probably have been addressed. It’s not the opposition’s job to govern, and there’s no point Miliband tying himself into an inevitably tricky policy on a problem that someone else has the unenviable task of solving. On the other hand, if they don’t put forward some sort of coherent stance they will firstly be mocked for it, but more importantly, the government will invent a stance for them. If Labour don’t define themselves, then come the next election the Conservatives will paint the choice as being “the party that took the hard but necessary decisions while Labour suggested nothing” or “the party that took the steps needed to bring the economy back to health, opposed at every step by Labour”. It would fall on fertile ground: if you look again at the YouGov trackers on party image, the Tories have an overwhelming lead (58% to 10%) on the perception that their “leaders are prepared to take tough and unpopular decisions.”

Then there is the fairness agenda, this is the Conservatives’ great weakness. As I wrote in the first of these pieces, polls show people increasingly think the cuts are unfair and many still see the Tories as a party that puts the rich and affluent first. That’s an open door that Labour can push at. However, in order to win Labour need to appeal to middle class and aspirational voters. YouGov polling in August found Labour was seen as being closest to trade unions, to benefit claimants and to immigrants, with comparatively few people seeing them as close to the middle classes or people in the South. In opposing the cuts Labour mustn’t allow themselves to become too closely associated with the benefit recipients losing out from cuts, or the trade unions striking against them (hence, of course, Ed Miliband’s focus on the “squeezed middle”)

Finally Labour have to make themselves seem renewed and relevant again. It will be easy for Labour to say what they are against, trickier to say what they are for.

The short term position for Labour is good, and will get even better next year. It may be that the economy sours and they have an easy ride back to power. If not though, they have an awful lot of hard work to do – Ed Miliband needs to ensure that the relative ease with which the party has re-established a lead in the poll doesn’t lead them to think that it’s in the bag. The good news for Labour is they have the luxury of being able to do all the work from the position of an opinion poll lead.


413 Responses to “End of year round up – Labour”

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  1. Happy New Year to you all

    @Eoin
    Happy New Year to you. Perrleeese post in 2011 .
    If you don’t then some of us will nag till you do ! :) :)

    BTW if you still short of water would you like some of ours from Derbyshire ? Tiz very wet here.

  2. Happy New Year everyone!

    @ Anthony

    Thank you for running and maintaining the site – all the best in 2011 :)

  3. Happy New Year, UKPRers. I hope any of you facing financial challenges sail through them unscathed. Here’s to interesting times ahead!

  4. Happy New Year

    Bliadhna Mhath Ur

  5. Old Nat,

    Maith thu a chara, is maith lion Old Nat agus dilim go bdfhuil se iontach iontach go maith :)

    Cozmo,

    Go raigbh maith agat a chara :)

  6. Eoin

    Some of that I could translate, but not all – but I suspect you are dyslexic in Gaelic as well as English? :-) :-) :-)

    Great to hear from you, though.

  7. 8-) HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY 8-)

  8. @ Éoin

    We’ll bring the water, if you bring the whisky. :-)

  9. OldNat,

    A Chara,

    Silim go bhfuil se iontach iontach go maith! :)

    Amber,

    agus thu xx

  10. Amber

    It’ll be whiskey that Eoin brings. :-)

  11. Neil A,

    I should take the opportunity, while I am on to state categorically that you are three things…

    a gentleman,
    an intellectual,
    and a kind soul….

    I wish you all the happiness

    _______

    Billy luv life- you’re a great fella!!

  12. oLDnAT,

    Uisce Bheatha>? is mise? nahhh Is maith liom Guinness :)

  13. wishing a happy new year to all here.

  14. Eoin

    I presume that the Guiness supply is safe, since the Republic is sending water to NI, as well as ourselves.

    Nice to see that neighbours help out – regardless of the degree of political union.

  15. Oldnat,

    160,000 litres from celt to celt-thank you :)

  16. Eoin

    We send you water. You send us Rangers and Celtic supporters.

    I think you get the best of the deal! :-)

  17. ON,

    :P

  18. @ Billy Bob

    First of all, Harriet Harman has a country house? That sounds ballin’. Or glamorous. Or perhaps both. I’m a fan merely because she’s witty and reminds me a little bit of Hillary.

    Cameron reminds me of Schwarzenegger only taller, better looking, possessing subtlety with a good grasp of the English language.

  19. @ Eoin and Old Nat

    1. Shouldn’t you both be plastered by now?

    2. Is Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic the same?

  20. SoCalLib,

    There are some differences but OldNat gets what I mean. New Year is big in Scotland but not so in Ireland :)

  21. @Eoin,

    Thank you that is very kind.

    @SoCalLiberal,

    Good old Harriet is an old-money, privately educated aristo just like Cameron and his cronies. That’s what made the abortive Labour “anti-Toff” campaign a couple of years ago a bit hard to stomach for me!

  22. All the best for the New Year whichever party.
    Excellent piece by Anthony and an excellent overall view of Labour’s strengths (and underlying weaknesses). Wonder what posters think about an impact of a negative AV Ref vote and its potential to damage the coalition? May 5 is LG day but AV is a real weakness for Clegg with much of his remaining credibility staked on a yes. It will be held against a backdrop of cuts to services which will most definitely impact on people’s prefs?

  23. Happy New Year to all, Ka’pla! (as non-English contributions seem to be the in thing here!)

  24. @ Eoin

    Thank you, :)

    Have a good new year!

  25. Best wishes for 2011 everyone.

    AW
    Another excellent summary and analysis.

    Although I can understand why there is ground for arguing that the coalition will survive five years, I still hold to the view that it could unravel very quickly this year. We have the by-election anf then the council elections plus the AV referendum. Poor LD performances in these could precipitate open LD revolt against NC.

    Eoin – good to see you posting.

  26. Eoin,

    Nice to see you back. The old place hasn’t been the same without you.

  27. All the best Anthony and fellow UKPR’s. May your celebrations and joviality last longer than David Laws current cabinet experiences :-)

  28. Happy New Year to all!
    Anthony, interesting and insightful post as always.
    2011 is going to be a crucial year politically.
    Lib Dems hold power, but will they use it?
    Amber, could you just dust off that crystal ball?

  29. Is anyone sober out there? and who took my glass of wine?
    Anyone care to remind us of what a normal set of results would be for the Local Elections – as comparisons with 4 years ago would be when Labour hit a real low level. We need to have some sort of level baseline to judge the outcomes against

    Anyone enough of this politics stuff for now – I have a meal to cook

  30. @ Neil A

    “Good old Harriet is an old-money, privately educated aristo just like Cameron and his cronies. That’s what made the abortive Labour “anti-Toff” campaign a couple of years ago a bit hard to stomach for me!”

    Nothing wrong with all that as long as you’re not denying who you are. I was watching the 2001 General Election on Youtube a few weeks ago. I did not understand the big deal with Shaun Woodward’s butler.

    @ Eoin

    “There are some differences but OldNat gets what I mean. New Year is big in Scotland but not so in Ireland”

    I’m not that big a fan of New Year’s but my family has our traditions. It usually consists of pigging out at some gourmet food around midnight. :) I appreciate the Gaelic even if I don’t know what it means (it’s not like Spanish where I don’t know Spanish but I’ve kinda picked up some understanding of it).

  31. Haven’t had time to read all of the comments, but I pretty much agree with everything AW says.

    In a nutshell:-

    (1) Labour moves into a consistent lead in the polls during 2011 and probably throughout 2012 and 2013 (although with growing question marks over EM’s leadership, I’m not sure the lead will be that great);

    (2) The Tories, aided and abetted by the media*, create a narrative that the pain is not only necessary but that it’s all Labour’s fault – enabling them to retake the poll lead by 2014 (on the grounds that “We’ve sacrificed a lot to get the economy back on track so why risk having Labour back again?”).

    For what it’s worth – and this is, I admit, a fool’s game – I predict the next general election will yield a share of vote in the region of Tories low forties: Labour low thirties: Lib Dems mid teens. There will be no appetite for having Labour back after only one Conservative-led term, and although a lot of Lib Dem voters will switch to Labour, the Tories will be the beneficiary of this in terms of seats (yielding to them an overall majority). I also reckon the Conservatives will narrowly be the benificiaries – in terms of both votes and seats – of the net effect of direct switching between the two main parties.

    This outcome will precipitate another Labour leadership election, thus beginning the second stage of the party’s period in the wilderness.

    Needless to say, there are still a lot of variables that could yet alter this scenario, but by and large the Tories have to be odds-on for a second term. (After all, when was the last time they failed to win the popular vote when trying for a second term of office?).

    Do I want this to happen? Nope – my cross will be going firmly in the Labour box when the time comes (unless, of course, the party decides to re-adopt the ‘longest suicide note in history’ as its programme for government – and there’s no chance of that happening).

    *The media can still make a significant difference: witness the massive swing to the Tories among Sun readers as a result of Murdoch switching his endorsement from Blair to Cameron.

  32. robin

    i think your prediction is overly pesimistic, even if the economy recovers(which it won’t) labour will still poll more than low 30s and i can’t see the tories getting over the 40% barrier

    but as i don’t belive in the mythical recovery. i am convinced that lab will win the next GE but will not be reelected in 2020

    econmic recovery 2022 at the earliest 2025 more likly

  33. Can’t usually say this but I agree with all Anthony’s
    comments for coming year.
    Ed Miliband has clearly some way to go before he starts to ring bells with the voters—-but did D Cameron ever do it? N Clegg did for a few weeks and look where it went!
    As for “Robin Hood”— be careful you sound more like the Sheriff
    Happy new year to all

  34. Indiana Jones defeated the Soviets

    Will Smith is going to defeat the aliens.

    This site deals in fantasy – which is why it’s so popular.

    Alternatively, there may be some Ne’er Day confusion in my mind, because the steak pie (the traditional Scots dish on 1st Jan) isn’t ready yet.

  35. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL
    HEUREUSE LA NOUVELLE ANNEE

    In 2011, I expect that the parties that will have electoral gains (caution: electoral gains are not always political gains – last year in Slovakia the governing social democrats increased their vote from 29 to 35% yet they went to the opposition because of the collapse of their allies, whilst in the Czech Republic the conservative ODS remained in power despite its electoral disaster from 35 to 20% because 2 newly founded center-right parties chose to ally themselves with it) will be the following:
    Labour and Sinn Fein in Irish GE, Soc. Democrats and Popular Socialists (Greens) in Danish GE, True Finns (nationalist right) in Finnish GE, KESK (center-left liberals) in Estonian GE, Social Democrats and their allies in Croatian GE, SLD in Polish GE, Left and Freedom in probable Italian GE, Greens in all six German States, Social Democrats in Hamburg, Labour in Scotland and Wales.
    On the other hand, the parties that will be in serious trouble are the following: FF and Greens in Eire, KESK in Finland, Liberals and Conservatives in Denmark, Croatian Democrats (center-right) and their allies in Croatia, Berlusconi’s PDL in Italy, FDP Liberals in all German States and CDU in some of them, LD in Scotland and Wales.
    For the remaining parties, there will probably be minor fluctuations in percentage, but with possible major political consequences. For instance in Finland all 3 major parties are between 18 and 22%, and their exact result will be instrumental for the formation of the new government, whilst in Italy, a difference even of 0,1% between the first and the second coalition gives to the former OM via the bonus seats.

  36. Happy New Year to you all…

    EM has at least one thing he can look forward to: good local election results. In one sense this is independent of his performance, it simply reflects the low number of Labour Councillors after 12 years of a Labour Government.

  37. Robin Hood – “… switching his endorsement from Blair to Cameron.”

    I know the switching was long sign-posted, but it did not officially occur until used as a spoiling tactic during the 2009 Labour conference (under Brown’s leadership) when the writing was widely considered to be on the wall for his administration.

    I’m not denying the importance of having the currant bun banging on every day on your behalf, but there is more a component of being seen to be on the winning side than a sense that The Sun can win it against the tide.

    First impressions are important, in 2006 Murdoch told The New Yorker, “He’s charming, he’s very bright and he behaves as if he doesn’t believe in anything other than trying to construct what he believes will be the right public image.”

    If he fails to deliver on the “bargain” that Peter Mandelson and Ben Bradshaw believe was struck (after a long period of intense courting) in order to secure NI endorsment, then all bets for who The Sun cheers in 2015 will be off.

  38. Add me to Robin Hood as a labour party member pessimist, although I prefer realist.
    I think the gap may be a little lower, though,at the next GE between Lab and Cons than his 10% nearer 5 or 7%
    Labour then change leader to Mr or Mrs Balls and win in 2020.
    Ed is like Kinnock in his second parliament as leader of HMO and like him will be fondly remembered for improving our position and credibility before giving way to a more electable leader.

    Note to Neil A from the cons thread, it seems supermac agreed with my position re 81 budget.

  39. @Neil A

    “a gentleman,
    an intellectual,
    and a kind soul….”

    Good grief, Neil, I bet in all your time as a serving policeman you’ve never been complimented in such a gushing and flattering way before, have you?? I don’t think even the saintly PC Dixon of Dock Green ever ticked all of those three boxes, although his little homilies at the end of each programme suggested a kindly soul! Then again, I’ve known some policemen who would regard each of Eoin’s three compliments as distinct character flaws!!!

    @Robin Hood

    “The Tories, aided and abetted by the media*, create a narrative that the pain is not only necessary but that it’s all Labour’s fault – enabling them to retake the poll lead by 2014 (on the grounds that “We’ve sacrificed a lot to get the economy back on track so why risk having Labour back again?”).”

    Your doomsday scenario, certainly from a Labour point of view, is indeed a possibility, but no more likely than a whole host of other, as yet, entirely hypothetical outcomes. Yours appears to be a rather unusual subverted version of wishful thinking and I wonder, as a Labour supporter, if you’re not subconsciously confronting your demons and predicting your least preferred scenario. This is rather like some football fans I know who predict thrashings for their team, whilst really yearning, hoping and expecting much better. Perverse, but it seems makes them feel better about things for some reason! expectation management perhaps?

    We’ve all rehearsed the possible electoral scenarios many times before and, as events unfold, time elapses, real polls take place and personalities mature, we shall know ever more, but we could still be 52 months away from a General Election and clear and confident forecasting surely eludes us all for now. Your scenario is predicated on a number of still unknowns (how Labour’s leader performs for one) and I don’t think it’s possible to predict how or if a recovering economy will benefit the incumbent government. Indeed, most of the economic forecasters aren’t in agreement on the extent or timing of the aforesaid economy recovery. More interestingly, maybe, some are already casting doubts on whether a moderately growing economy, if it is accompanied by sluggish house price growth, commodity and retail price inflation and stubbornly unmoving structural unemployment will carry much of a political dividend anyway. In the past, the economic booms that have tended to sweep troubled governments off the political rocks and on to the electoral beaches of success have been fuelled by cheap and easily available credit and over inflated house price bubbles. Raving purchasing power, or fools gold, tends to go to all of our consumerist heads for a while. Anybody betting on that being the economic backcloth to the next election??

  40. Anthony:

    You are right to sit on the fence about Miliband, but Scotland is too complex to make a judgement.

    The Greens will get back some but maybe not all of the votes and seats they lost the SNP last time. The Libdems will lose fewer votes than UK polls would lead you to believe, mostly to the SNP but it may not make much difference in seats.

    There will be some churn from Lab to SNP and less the other way. The Cons will suffer an insignificant decline. The Socialists are missing this round.

    There are four reasons it’s impossible to predict the result.

    1 Seats lost in constituencies can be replaced on the list and vice versa.
    2 Churn as above
    3 Split voting (LibDems Highland. Lab in Glasgow)
    4 The late ABT swingers (I don’t mean TS in Manchester) to Labour in the GE will divide between those who stick with Labour and those who vote SNP, and their reason will be exactly the same. How they divide may determine the outcome.
    5 It is as close as it gets at present. The Green recovery of half of what they lost could by itself be enough to make Labour the largest party.

  41. @JimJam,

    Well Mac didn’t seem to think that fighting inflation was important. Personally I think we can all be grateful that it was tamed, even if the medicine was painful. I suppose in his defence he died before the medicine had really had any effect (certainly by the time of his 1980 memo it was still extremely early days – I think he was rushing to judgement).

    @Nick,

    Eoin says the loveliest things. I try to be a gentleman, am often accused of being at least a pseudo-intellectual, and am kind more often than I am cruel. I don’t think I do half as well at any of these as Eoin would have me believe…

    I am certainly not “that” sort of policeman (I know very well to whom you refer – my career is a constant battle to prove that my way is better than “their” way).

  42. @ Nick Hadley

    Good points.

    You say that I have an “unusual subverted version of wishful thinking” and am “subconsciously confronting demons and predicting the least preferred scenario” as a Labour supporter.

    Actually, I have always tended to have my own political allegiance in one part of my mind and my view of electoral reality in another. In the 1980s, when Peter Kellner and I worked on MORI’s British Public Opinion newsletter, I don’t think that any of our commentary was ever influenced by our own respective ideologies (despte him being a pro-Labour journalist and me at that time being a member of the SDP).

    Working in market research tends to train your mind to look at the psephological facts objectively – even if those facts do not always square with what you would personally like.

    The nub of my reasoning is this: we cannot always use history as a benchmark, but generally it gives us a clue about the future. The UK has had three periods of Conservative government since the war, and on two of those three occasions (1955 and 1983) there was a swing to the Tories when they went for a second term of office.

    Admittedly, in Feburary 1974 there was a tiny swing back to Labour, but the difference on that occasion was that the opposition leader had already previously been a PM – and so there were fewer doubts about his ability to be premier than in the case of either Michael Foot in 1983 or Ed Miliband now.

    On the economy, history suggests that incumbent governments don’t always do better when things are booming: they weren’t in 1992, when the Tories won the biggest popular vote mandate in British political history. Five years later, with the economy largely recovered, they were buried under a landslide.

    The main issue is whether David Cameron can successfully sell a narrative that persuades people into believing that our economic difficulties are the inevitable consequence of Labour mismanagement in the naughties and that a further change of government would mean people had swallowed a lot of unpleasant medicine for no benefit.

    The economy wasn’t doing particularly well in 1983, yet the Tories were re-elected with a 16-point margin for the simple reason that the electorate perceived there to be no alternative (and also because Labour were not credible).

    Election victories often occur because a set of factors sort of “click”. In 1997, despite much talk of the “green shoots of recovery” there was just such an overwhelming feeling – even among the middle classes – that it was time for a change (together with an intrinsic sense that Tony Blair could be trusted to look after middle England) that there was nothing that a hapless John Major could do to prevent it.

    But basically you’re right. Although I would contend that there is a clear and very likely prospectus of a Tory recovery before 2015, it is far too early to call that election because at this stage there are simply too many imponderables (not least the fact that the coalition may not hold until then).

  43. Apropos of nothing, BBC2/BBC News 24 are currently reshowing last November’s Munk debates between Hitchens (C) and Blair: if you switch it on now, you’ll get the last two-thirds.

    h ttp://www.munkdebates.com/debates/Religion
    h ttp://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/11/christopher-hitchens-tony-blair

    Regards, Martyn

  44. “… millions of people’s actual experiences of Labour government were good.”

    Raphael Behr in today’s Observer caution’s the coalition about overselling their Labour legacy “narrative”.

  45. I’m thinking that the Conservatives will struggle to get over 40% next time too. UKIP will drain just enough support to making getting an overall majority all but impossible.

    Labour have a leader somewhere between Blair and Foot in terms of popularity. Mid thirties at least, mostly due to all those stray LD’s looking for a home.

    LD’s to lose 75% of their seats.

    Probably another coalition of the unwilling or unsuitable will ensue.

  46. Neil A.

    You are as moderate sensible conserative as far the evidence of your posts indicate. I recall even when the cons had big leads in 09 you were realistic enough to know that no OM was quite possible and talk of Labour party anhialation was silly. (not going to top Eoin’s Eulogy)
    I like to think of my self as a similarly realist LP member hence my view that the conservatives will win next time a slim OM as other things being equal swing voters will stick with the cons and we will struggle to be fully acceptable again by then to enough of those voters. As above, though, I am a little less pessimistic than Robin Hood and believe there is a chance we could be the largest party in a hung/balanced parliament depending on how the ‘experiment’ works or is judged to have worked and how the coalition manage re events, gaffes, their inter-party relationships etc.
    We are not going to change each others mind but our difference of opinion over the 81 budget and by extension the pace of the defecit reduction now goes to the heart of the next GE result and possibly the one after. It is an honest difference both credible positions imo and will form the main divide in politics for many years to come even in 20-30 years time. Virtually all of my Northern England Peer group who were 18 in 1981 became very anti-conservative and in most cased strongly Labour (despite most of us doing well career wise and one or 2 extremely well) This Anti-con sentiment in a large part of my age group from Northern UK and I guess some of Wales is what sustained the ABT vote (as per John above) and prevented a con majority last time. I believe that GO (more than Cam as he takes the brunt of the perceived fairness gap) is creating a similarly negative Electoral time bomb for the conservatives so todays 40 and 50 something anti- Thatcher ABTs will be joined by Anti-Cam/Osborne ABTs in 20-30 years time. As the older Con voters move off the electoral register Labour (or the centre left however organised by then) will enjoy much success and probably a decent talent pool to draw on from all those young people joining Labour now.

    Finally – a straw poll od LD MPs re 81 budget would be interesting and my guess is that those expressing an opinion would split heavily against Thatcher/Howe.

  47. @ Billy Bob

    “… millions of people’s actual experiences of Labour government were good.”

    It is easy to engineer a “good experience” when you are spending public money like there is no tomorrow. No doubt heroin addicts’ experiences of drug taking are “good” until they come to need their next dose.

    The come down after the public spending “high” was inevitable, only Labour has not been around to suffer the impact on its popularity.

  48. While we’re about utterly partisan predictions masquerading as impartial, here’s one from the yellows.

    1) Tory voters defect to Lib Dems in Old & Sad, pushing them to a suprise win;
    2) AV referendum sees old Tory and Labour dinosaurs gang up on the same side, making NO to AV look ridiculous and swinging the vote for reform;
    3) All the positive surveys about business investment and employment intentions prove correct and with Germany and the US economies reviving, UK exports start to have a positive impact on the economy;
    4) Private sector job creation proves buoyant enough to keep unemployment stable or declining, making Labour look increasinly foolish with its predictions of a double dip;
    5) The increased personal allowance proves highly popular and the Lib Dems take the credit;
    6) The cuts turn out to be nowhere near as bad as expected, with most of them falling on wasteful programmes of dubious benefit.
    7) Unrest starts to grow as Ed Miliband’s leadership comes under fire for being weak and indecisive. His poll ratings carry on falling.
    8) Lib Dem poll ratings recover and losses at the local elections are not as bad as anticipated, due to the local nature of councillors’ support and the geographical spread of the elections.
    9) Tories enter self destruct mode, with UKIPers in open rebellion, underlining how right wing the party really is without the Lib Dems.

    In fact, many of these things are “straight line” forecasts of trends that are already evident.

    Wishing you a Happy (and impartial) New Year for 2011!

  49. @Robert C

    The problem with selectively projecting straight line trends as you’ve done to generate a prediction… Is you end up with an apparent scenario leading to all the main parties failing to be electable for one reason or another…

    Maybe the Green Party will form the next government?

  50. @Robin Hood

    “The nub of my reasoning is this: we cannot always use history as a benchmark, but generally it gives us a clue about the future. The UK has had three periods of Conservative government since the war, and on two of those three occasions (1955 and 1983) there was a swing to the Tories when they went for a second term of office.”

    You make some good points and, having worked with Peter Kellner in market research for many years, I’d be a fool not to respect and heed your views on these matters. My only slight counter to your underlying argument is that using elections of 50 and 30 years ago as benchmarks for future voting behaviour might now lead is down blind alleys. I don’t think many of us have fully appreciated the changing shape of our domestic politics and how this has altered the electoral landscape in those intervening years. There are many and varied changes, but the fundamental ones for me are these. Much lower turn-outs, significantly less support for the two main parties, the growth in support for the nationalist parties, the proliferation of smaller parties like UKIP, BNP and Greens, the regionalisation of party support, greater voter volatility and the emergence of a strong third party. Throw into the mix a possible new voting system, a five year experience of coalition government and the possible ruination of the Lib Dems, and I don’t see how any of us can predict 2015 with anything approaching confidence or certainty.

    My final point is one I’ve made many times before and it is the tendency, in my view, for commentators and observers to overstate the the strength and electoral base of the modern Conservative Party. This is no longer the party of the post war years up to 1992 and something rather fundamental happened to it during that run of historic defeats in the 90s and 00s, both organisationally and psephologically, I don’t think it can any longer count on the electoral robustness and resilience it once took for granted and, if nothing else, didn’t the 2010 General Election bring that reality sharply into focus? Current Labour defeatism may be based on ghosts long put to rest.

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